Wednesday 29th October

Classic Album Sundays ‘New’ Basement Tapes preview at the Bag O’ Nails
Appropriately set in a basement private members club in Soho (where Paul met Linda, and Jimi played his first gig, for those taking notes at the back), Coleen Murphy talked to Sid Griffin about the upcoming Basements release. Sid is expansive and all-knowing, Coleen is bubbly, the sound system stunning, the vinyl the best they can make and the audience refreshed by the limitless free wine and canapes. I had not expected this when I bought my £10 ticket. I take it as a sign that even Sony know they have vastly overcharged for the complete six-CD set and are trying to make amends. Steve and I were told off for talking – about the fact that Rick Danko is the key to nearly all the Basement Tapes’ melodies – by those sitting next to us (we apologise and they graciously accept – we hadn’t quite got into the whole Listen To An Album In Silence In Public thing.) We loved it, though, and we’ll be looking for Classic Album Sundays’ upcoming treats.

Laura Barnett interviews Kander and Dench about Cabaret in The Guardian
John Kander: “The first thing I did was listen to all the German jazz of the 1920s that I could find, believing that somehow the music would seep into my body. I’ve done that several times since: when we were writing Zorba, I listened to lots of Greek music; with Chicago, it was American jazz. It’s like sitting on a pile of books, hoping that the information will sneak up into your body without you having to think about it. And it does. Cabaret went down quite well in New York, but it was with the London production that things got really interesting. Lila Kedrova – a wonderful actress but wrong, I felt, for the part of Fraülein Schneider – got rave reviews. And Judi Dench, who was without question the best Sally Bowles I’ve ever seen in my life, got bad reviews. She filled out the character in a way we have never seen, before or since. She was innocent and knowing, vulnerable and tough. I remember working with her on the song “Cabaret”. Judi hadn’t sung that much in the theatre, and she was having a problem with the ending, which is one long, held note. I was showing her ways to cheat, but she stopped and said: ‘What a minute – what do you want? What do you really want?’ I said: ‘Well, I’d like it the way I wrote it.’ And she said: ‘That’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get.’ How could you not fall in love with somebody like that?”

Judi Dench: “In the audition, I told Hal [Prince, producer]: ‘I’m not a singer at all.’ And Hal said: ‘Remember that in a musical, you’re not to speak in one voice and sing in another. If that’s the voice you speak in, that’s the voice you sing in.’ It was such an empowering thing to say: I’ve since passed it on to lots of people. I got hold of Goodbye to Berlin, the book by Christopher Isherwood that it’s based on, and kept it on my dressing-room table – open at the page about Sally being just a middle-class girl from Cheltenham. She couldn’t sing at all, but there was something about her you couldn’t stop watching, something mesmerising. I read that passage over every single night. My dressing-room was underground, so I could hear what people were saying as they walked past, which could be quite unnerving. After one matinee, I heard a woman say to her husband: ‘Oh, you told me it was all about nuns and children.’ I think she was rather disappointed…”

Graham goes to the The Art of the Brick Exhibition, sends these

LEGO Janis Bob

Janis and Bob, immortalised in Lego.

We go to Frieze Masters
…which, in contrast to our anticipation that Frieze London would be inventive and now! and Frieze Masters would be old and dull, was exactly the reverse. FL showed that most contemporary art has dug its head in the sand, avoiding saying anything about the world around us, in a kind of petulant and feeble-minded way. Whereas FM covers everything from Italian church sculptures from the 16th century (just unbelievable) up to the year 2000. Great photographs from Frank and Horst, a clutch of Picassos, and some lovely stuff from the painters in each movement who weren’t the leading lights, but did great work none the less. Musically speaking, there were a few good things.

Frieze2

Here’s the one I found most intriguing, mainly because “Dink’s Blues” was a 78 my dad had, and I played it one day and thought it the most extraordinary thing I’d heard in my life. At first I laughed, finding it amusing that someone so barely competent had ever been recorded. But as I played it again (and again) the weird stop/start thing going on, the grunted, mumbled vocalising and the crashing creshendos of Dink’s ten fingers – I think it came to influence everything I feel about music. I haven’t heard it since about 1975 (my dad sold most of his American Musics when he was short of funds) and my attempts a while back didn’t turn a copy up. I even wonder if it could possibly match my remembered version. Anyway, it was great to be reminded of it here in The Barry Thorpe Collection of 20th Century American Music by Allen Ruppersberg, 2014 (Vol.1), an imagined collection in itself… And it didn’t hurt that the pegboard was so reminiscent of old playback booths…

Harry Dean Stanton interviewed by Sean O’Hagan last year (I’ve only just run across it)
“Singing and acting are actually very similar things,” says Stanton when I ask him about his other talent, having seen him perform about 15 years ago with his Tex-Mex band in the Mint Bar in Los Angeles. “Anyone can sing and anyone can be a film actor. All you have to do is learn. I learned to sing when I was a child. I had a babysitter named Thelma. She was 18, I was six, and I was in love with her. I used to sing her an old Jimmie Rodgers song, “T for Texas”. Closing his eyes, he breaks into song: “T for Texas, T for Tennessee, T for Thelma, that girl made a wreck out of me.” He smiles. “I was singing the blues when I was six. Kind of sad, eh?”

St Vincent, Roundhouse
My crusade of going to see concerts by musicians I have barely heard reaches a slight impasse with Annie Clark. The Roundhouse is fabulous and Michael is telling me great stories of nearly being run over, aged seven, by George Harrison’s Ford Anglia (John leant out and apologised). I loved his great answer to the question, asked recently at a party, of what music he liked: “Music that sounds like it comes from somewhere”. I think that nails it. Anyway, here are my iPhone jottings on SV: Stunning opening/ Performance art/huge shadow shape-making on the bkdrop/klieg lights flashing/So composed sure and happy in her performance/Great, great hair/[At one point] she lays down, then slowly falls off a stage riser, in the glare of halogen lights/Robert Johnson fingers shredding like Marnie Stern/Weirdly mesmerising, almost metal guitar playing/Great hair. That was the first 45 minutes. Then my notes end as the law of diminishing returns set in and I drift to the bar and then to the exit.

Five Things: Wednesday 19th February

After last week’s scheduled interruption…

A gift from Bob & Sandy, in which stunning clay figures mash the Day Of The Dead with celebrity icons
Name all six, Win A Prize!

MexicoPrince’s plectrum from his first visit to London, 1981
As Prince plays small gigs in the capital, from front rooms in Leyton to the offices of The Guardian, a look back… I knew of Prince because my friend Mick had given me Prince, the album. I was working in my first  job at the Radio Times and went to the Lyceum  show with two friends from work, Sue and Ruby. I remember it being virtually empty as there hadn’t been much publicity. It was the Dirty Mind band of Andre Cymone on bass, Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z on drums and Dez Dickerson on guitar. The keyboardists were disguised (Matt Fink had some kind of radiation suit on) and the frontline wore underwear and trenchcoats. Quite mad. It was a spectacular show, with Prince’s guitar playing  outstanding, and they went down a storm with the few hundred people there (mostly music-biz types, I think). I was right at the front (well, the whole audience were, actually) and close enough to catch Prince’s plectrum.

Prince

I have a memory of Prince being bad-tempered, not with the audience, but at the empty hall. He stomped off at the end throwing his pick rather petulantly… and cancelled the rest of the tour. I recently read the brilliant Ian Penman on this gig. He hated it. Really, really hated it. See for yourself in this cut-down excerpt (I know I shouldn’t but it is pretty long: “For a wolverine habituee of the sharper clubs and bars of our capital such as myself, this tawdry ‘gig’ was something like a step into the horrors of Hieronymous Bosch from the accustomed gilt-edged decadent sumptuousness of Klimt! The dry ice and fright lights – whose calculated effect is undermined and rendered pretty pathetic by way of the Lyceum’s half-emptiness – turn out to be a good index of the Prince live repertoire’s ancient grasp of sub-cultural subtlety: the plot doesn’t thicken, it keeps its consistency. Heavy, stodgy, overdone, tasteless, lacking in spice or space – you get the picture? ‘Outfront’, Prince prances in unison with his two guitar cohorts – they walk it like they talk it, as the saying goes, every song split down the middle or battered to bed with the tedious exaggeration of third-rate Heavy Metal. Someone remarked to me the next day that oh, you know what these young chaps are like with their Hendrix fixations. Hendrix? It never began to shimmer with a hint of the historical avant-shapelessness or spirited slipstreams or sexual harangues of a Hendrix! This was calculated – Madison Square Garden here we come! – coldly choreographed strut rut muzak, in which context Prince’s thigh flashes and camp come-hither persona is stretched pretty thin. My two fellow funkateers and I unanimously elected to wander away from the endlessly guitar wrenching spectacle after about half an hour – we didn’t really even ‘walk out’; it was more of an embarrassed shuffle.”

I, on the other hand, was obviously taken in by the dry ice and the third-rate Heavy Metal. I still am – see the music player on the right…

Annie Clark review, from our French Correspondent, Steve Way
“St Vincent was awesome at Le Cigalle – small theatre venue, great fun – she has the arty moves, channeling  a deranged Barbie rock android. Did the whole gig, including climbing steps, on high heel strappy black pixie boots. Fiona most impressed.”

Tip Jar in Attendant, a Victorian Men’s urinal turned cafe in Foley Street. Highly recommended for Ironwork, and coffee

Tipjar…and on the playlist as we ate breakfast, The Tallest Man On Earth. Rather great, all in all.

Oh, and I thought I might write about the soul-sapping Brits…
but every record tells a story does it better. Except he fails to mention the strange absence of any discernible talent in Ellie Goulding, Kate Moss’s voice (don’t speak, don’t break the illusion), the pitiful MasterCard plinth, Pharell’s Club Tropicana trousers (I said he’d look back in six months and rue the day, but Miche pointed out that six hours might be more accurate), and the absurd bigging-up of host James Corden by most of the bands (why? He was so poor). OK, that’s it.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 2nd May

Miles Davis, the “My Funny Valentine” scene, Homeland
Carrie presses play on her music system and Miles’ trumpet entwines round the next five minutes, as the would-be dinner à deux fails to materialize. She puts on lipstick, walks past the painting of a jazz trumpeter on the stairs. Brody’s at the door. Their clothes rustle, the ever present cicadas throb as the background sounds are foregrounded. She pours wine. “Miles Davis!” she barks. “Do you like Jazz?” “I don’t know anything about it.” He tells her why he’s there, he leaves, the double bass climbs, she ditches the wine. As the title melody resurfaces, the camera cuts to Brody getting into his car and staring out the windscreen, then back to Carrie, wretched in her kitchen, then to Saul. He’s the only one who knows about Brody and Carrie’s relationship, has a tangled relationship of his own with Carrie as her mentor, and now he’s staring into a CIA fridge, filled with all the things that office fridges always contain: medicines and mustard and peanut butter… The tune spirals and stretches as Saul walks back to his office and, seen from behind the blinds, sighs as he realizes he’s forgotten a knife. He looks in his desk drawer and pulls out a ruler to spread the peanut butter, and at 5 minutes, 10 seconds, with the song only 50 seconds away from finishing, it cuts into an electronic bass hum/high pitched drone and a child’s drawing in a mansion window, as the next day dawns—and brings with it the fateful surveillance operation in the square.

Freak Out!
In a particularly wide-ranging segment of Jools Holland’s Later, an incandescent Annie Clarke—a refreshingly un-Marina And The Machines-like woman singer, and a considerable guitarist. I was so-so about the song, but the guitar playing! Well, great joy! Not since seeing the latest Chili Peppers guitarist [Josh Klinghoffer] has someone stopped me in my tracks like that. “As of late 2011, her pedal board includes the following: Korg PitchBlack, DBA Interstellar Overdriver Supreme, ZVex Mastotron Fuzz, Eventide Pitchfactor, Eventide Space, BOSS PS-5 Super Shifter, Moog EP-2 Expression Pedal. All her pedals are controlled by a MasterMind MIDI Foot Controller. She usually plays with a 60s Harmony H-15V Bobkat guitar.”—Wikipedia

Olly: Life On Murs
Oh the fabulous poptastic late-night treats continue… I don’t remember the channel, but here’s a programme possibly commissioned for the Title Pun alone. We follow the cheeky chappy (a kind of cut-price Robbie Williams) as he tours. Memorable moment—the backstage huddle just before hitting the stage. Rather than Madonna’s prayer circle, a raucous New Orleans-style number led by the horn players as the band leap around singing “I feel like fuckin’ it up, I feel like fuckin’ it up.” Brilliant.

Nostalgia Time! House Of Oldies
Photographer Nick Sinclair’s mailout this week.

I remember this record shop! I bought Bruce Springsteen bootlegs (Passaic, The Roxy ’78—“All you bootleggers out there in radioland, roll your tapes”) from them in the early Eighties.

Joplin. Grave. Spinning.
Not since I saw a poster in Times Square for Bob Marley Footwear [see picture] has something clothes-based seemed so wrong.

A re-issue of Pearl had this flyer inside: “Made for Pearl is part gypsy rambler, and part cosmic cowgirl… a bit of joyful rebellion. MFP has produced clothing and accessories as enduringly modern, beautiful and timeless as Joplin’s colourful legacy.” Who writes this shit?

And finally…
chuckrainey.chipin.com/chuck-rainey-well-health-fund

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